Monday, January 21, 2013

Roman Loranc


One of my previous posts was about the relationship between the architecture of cathedrals and the architectural elements of plants, especially trees. I mentioned Emerson's observations about the similarities between the two. I somehow omitted to mention the photographer Roman Loranc and the way this theme plays out in his work. "Flashback" looks exactly like light shining through stained glass windows set in pointed Gothic arches.

This isn't something I guessed from his work, many photographers take pictures of trees and churches. I would go so far as saying trees are amongst the most photographed things out there because they are beautiful and they are everywhere. He is actually cognizant of the connection between forms in nature and places of worship. One might even go so far as saying all religions are nature worship at their roots (pun intended). 
"I'm fascinated by the ancient churches of my homeland," Loranc says. "These are holy spaces where millions of people have prayed for hundreds of years. They are places of great humility, and remind us how brief our lives are. I feel the same way when I'm photographing ancient groves of native oaks in California. I was unconscious of this when I began, but upon reflection, I think the oaks are just as sacred as the old cathedrals of Europe. They are sacred in that they have survived for so many years. I'm aware that the native people of California held all living things as divine. For me a grove of Valley Oaks is as sacred as any church in Europe."
I used Abbey in the Oakland by Caspar David Friedrich to make the point that cathedrals, especially Gothic ones, are subliminally forests of trees. Here I am using Friedrich's Bäume im Mondschein (Trees in Mondsheim) 1824, to illustrate basically the same thing. In this instance one can't help but to notice the similarities between the compositions as well. The timelessness of these two images in particular, is what brings to mind the word "eternity" and all the questions and reflection that goes with it. Somewhere in those thoughts religion (as we know it) was born so it is natural that all religions have elements of nature, especially trees, corporeally present. 

"Floating Oak"

"Crucified Landscape" seems to be pretty explicit about this. There is room for all kinds of metaphors here about what exactly crucifixion is and what the role and form of trees might suggest. Also, these are grapes, so the the wine and blood of Christ connection is a subtle little metaphor, present here too. Who knows, maybe the way grape vines are tied up, is where "crucifixion" came from. That would make this particular idea very old, after all the vineyards came first.

"Crucified Landscape"

This applies to all religions, otherwise they don't "stick". One of my favorite things to draw as a child was cherry blossom branches. I had a Japanese watercolor set with an inkstone. I drew cherry blossoms over and over, there was something about the shape of the bare branches, with only the pink blossoms to break the otherwise monochromatic image. The black and white made the pink even more pink. "Adler Spring" isn't cherry blossoms from what I can tell, but they are blossoms or buds, the spirit is the same.
"Adler Spring"

Speaking of childhood, Loranc was born in Poland and he immigrated to the U.S., I can relate to his view of the homeland because I emigrated to the U.S. too. I know the feeling of fascination he has with his homeland. I think a lot of immigrants feel like their homeland is more "real", more authentic, more true than the place they move to. The new place is just a dream. Even if they barely remember the homeland (my case), it still seems like the homeland is more genuine somehow. The homeland become a myth that is more real than the place you are. New home is to dream as homeland is to myth. This isn't true of course, no place is more or less "real" or "sacred" than any other. One realizes this after a while, as Loranc did.

"Valley Oaks in Fog"
"Quiet Music"

 "Quiet Music" and "Quiet Symphony" both invoke musical scores, and "Quiet Symphony" has particularly pronounced musical notes. This is still connected to spirituality and nature, of course, because music is typically one of the most important elements in worship. It is also one of the most significant expressions of spirituality, not to mention loved by all humans in some form. If not for the apt title of this piece one might be slightly lost about what it might mean despite being impressed with it's beauty but the title is very illuminative.
"Quiet Symphony"

 "Quiet Symphony" is a nice reminder that many things that we don't immediately associate with nature are, still, very connected with it. Loranc spotted another interesting connection:
"I think about how interconnected the world is," he says. "When I'm out on a crisp winter's morning, shooting a stand of native oaks, I see oak galls hanging from the trees. These were once used to make the pyrogallol chemicals I use to develop my negatives. So the oak trees I am photographing played a part in the developer I use to process my negatives of those trees. It is healthy to remember that we are often linked to the natural world in ways we don't even suspect."
Also, the paper the photographs are printed on is also, likely, made of trees, which is obvious but not immediately.

"Water Dance"
"Blue Oak at Dusk"

What horror movie doesn't have some creepy trees in it somewhere? Bare trees are often symbols of death, but why does the death metaphor work so well? Why do bare trees, Gothic cathedrals and Gothic things in general look sinister to people? A guess is that one of the logical realizations one gets, relatively soon, in contemplating "eternity," is that they are not going to be around for it. This is where cemeteries come into this web of symbolism. Loranc mentions that both the trees and the churches make him think about "how brief out lives are". The next step is death.

"Kneeling Figure"

You can purchase these at Soul Catcher Studio, and this is also the source of all the Loranc Images and quotes.

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